Joel Osteen and John Gray - We Are One Family (Black Lives Matter)
Joel Osteen: So great to have you with us today and I'm with our good friend Pastor John Gray. John, we love you. Thanks for being a part of Lakewood for all these years. We are honored to have you. I can't think of a better person to have a conversation with today about all this going on in the nation in the world.
You know, John it's an extremely difficult times, and our heart breaks for what happened to George Floyd, you know, our hearts go out to his family. Really not just him, John, but everybody that suffered under racism, that cruelty for many many years. And you know, I can't pretend that I feel what you feel, John, or I know how you were raised, because it's just different, God made us different, but we're here just to seek understanding. There's a lot of wrongs in the world.
You know, I stay away from political issues. But this is not a political issue, this is a human issue, and you know: wrong is wrong and we we're gonna lend our voices. You know this, but to stay with our black brothers and sisters and stand against injustice and the things that have been wrong. And you know, John, I don't have the answers, but we're here to learn. And like I said, to seek understanding: what can we do better? And just maybe we can gain some understanding. But the main thing is to know that we grieve with what's happened. We love you, we care for you, we are here to stand in unity, and that's what we've done for 60 years here at Lakewood. Thanks for being a part and can you give us some insight? And just we love you so much.
John Gray: Well, it means the world... first of all pastor thank you, you couldn't possibly know the power of this moment. Not only I believe for the body of Christ, but particularly for black people, because there are so many people in the African-American community who love you, love your wife, who love the the work of this church. They may know you from a television broadcast. I've had the honor and privilege of being in relationship with you for over 11 years now. and so, having seen your life up front, up close. To know your heart is one thing, but to have this moment for other people to kind of step into what I know and what I believe is a critical moment for leaders to get off the fence. What you said is key: this is not political, this is spiritual and it is human. And what happened to George Floyd was a humanity issue and it shows what I believe is the callousness, the potential callousness of the human heart, the indifference, the lack of care for the most basic rudimentary understanding of human pain.
And for you to not just be a global pastor, but the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, where George Floyd was from Third Ward, it was critical for you to have a moment like this, so that we can talk about the pain, because the genesis of the pain is not George Floyd in Minneapolis for eight minutes and 46 seconds. It's not Brianna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery. It's not Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland, and we could go on and on down the list of systemic injustice. This is hundreds of years old. And I think that the nation and the people who are listening today need to understand that this conversation is not two weeks old, this is not a news cycle. we're talking about from 1619 until right now: black and brown people have been in some form of chain, whether physical or financial or emotional or societal, in varying forms from the first nine African chattel slaves, that arrived on the shores of Jamestown in 1619 until right now.
244 years of legal slavery, which is why it's important that we talk about this from the issue of justice, because justice is different from what is legal. Slavery was legal, but it wasn't just. And the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament makes clear, that God wants justice and mercy and equity. The very life of Jesus, his blood was shed to make us equal with Him in heavenly places, that we would be siblings, that we are heirs and joint heirs with Christ Jesus. "There is no more profound sacrifice than to lay down your life", so that all of us would have equal access to God the Father.
So, when you think about the black experience in America you you can't talk about it from the last two weeks or the last month, you have to take it from a macro level and realize that we were the only people group that are in this country that were not invited. So, when you think about the African-American experience in this country, it was in our documents that Africans or or black Americans were three-fifths of a human and that was that was only for taxation purposes. It wasn't because they thought we were that, we were still property.
And so I have an aunt, her name is Rose Lester, she lives outside of Detroit Michigan. She's 98 years young, and she still drives, and her grandmother was owned by someone. And so, when you think about the fact that we're not that far removed from a reality that no one really wants to talk about, but if you're going to talk about the pain and the eruption, and what I really believe is a revolution of this moment, you have to go to the Genesis. And the Genesis is even after the emancipation proclamation. There was no economic base for black families to be able to build any level of wealth or sustainable financial remunerations for their family. And they wanted to be able to do that.
We wanted to be able to vote, we wanted to be able to participate in this idea called "A democracy", this representative republic. And every time that was attempted, there was something there to stop us: systemic injustice from the grandfather clause, that hindered your ability to vote, unless your grandfather voted. And we know they couldn't vote, because they were slaves. And then the Jim Crow laws, and then if you talk too loud they just kill you, whether it's lynching or just disappear. And if you talk about equal rights, not special rights, I think that's really important, it's not about special rights it's about equal rights. I just want to be able to go to a restaurant, be treated like you. If I'm speeding and you are speeding and we're both stopped, we should both have the same level of confidence, that we're both getting home.
And so, there are some people who say, "I really don't understand all of the nuances to this moment. I'm a white person. I don't see color the same way. I'm not racist". I'll ask you a question: have you ever felt nervous when you got pulled over? Did you feel like "maybe I won't make it home".
Joel Osteen: No, I never have, John, I've never felt any of that.
John Gray: And so that's an important thing to acknowledge. It doesn't cross your mind. I'm me, whatever that means, I feel like I'm a good person, I feel like I do good things, I fight to to build bridges of understanding. I've lived my whole life that way. But a cop that pulls me over doesn't see that first. I know what he sees, because I know what I've been conditioned over years to know: that I'm big, I'm black. if it's at night, you know, it's dark, I'm in a car, that might be a newer model vehicle or something like that, a couple years old, there's all of these things. And I've got to make sure I put my hands here, don't say anything, you know, change your voice, "Officer, good evening, good to see you. You're doing well? Great!"
I have to become something non-threatening, because my presence has already been judged before I opened my mouth. And that is the experience of many black people in this country. And it's time for us to stop running from the reality, that the pain of generations has led us to this moment, and people are saying, "Enough. I'm tired. I'm hurting. I'm wounded", and no one has acknowledged the pain. The power of us sitting in these chairs is that you're acknowledging the pain. It means more than you know, because the idea of God not seeing color is something that the church cannot subscribe to any longer. If God created us diversely, then we must honor the humanity of all of God's creatures.
I don't find it offensive to hear "Black Lives Matter". And then of course there are people who will say: "All Lives Matter". That's like me saying "My House Matters", then someone's saying "All Houses Matter". Well, if my house is on fire, I know all houses matter, but I need help in my house, because my house is hurting, my house is burning. It doesn't minimize the value of your house. It doesn't minimize the value of your humanity for me to say "Black Lives Matter", what it's saying is, "They matter as well. They don't matter more. They matter equally". And I hope that in the discourse of of what we share today, and also what is heard over time, is that people will realize that this moment is not about saying "I'm above someone else". I just want to be valued at the same level as everyone else.
Joel Osteen: Yeah, that's so powerful, John. I mean, I was always taught, and everybody maybe not have been taught this way, but everyone is made in the image of God, that every person deserves respect and honor. And it's it's interesting for me, John, because I grew up in a church that was diverse from the time I was born. So, some of this is, you know, it's like: what could we do better? How can we do better? Not knowing some of this, I think a lot of people like you said are not, they're not racist, but how can we do better? And you can speak to that maybe.
John Gray: I think, the first thing that I'll say to that is, I'm going to ask a very visceral question: When people say "I don't know what to do. What can I do to help"? I'll ask this: I want to ask this question: what would you do, if somebody killed your son, unjustly. How would you feel? If it was my son John, if it was your boy Jonathan, if it was Alexandra, what would you want? The first thing you'd want is for people to rush to your AID to comfort you in your pain, as opposed to the questions that happen when you see black bodies on the streets. "Well, what did he do? Well did she comply? Well did she resist?" as if any of those things had anything to do with the value of their lives, with anything to do with the adjudication of justice, because I don't believe any of us are saying "black people shouldn't be arrested if they do crimes".
I heard Bishop Jakes say this a few days ago in a conversation with Carl Lentz, and he said "I'm not saying not to arrest people who do crimes. White folk do crimes, they should be arrested. Black people do crimes, they should be arrested. Hispanic folk do crimes, they should be arrested", he said, "but what I'm saying is: don't arrest me, try me, convict me and kill me on the sidewalk". That's the difference, that the people who are some, who are asked to protect and serve have taken liberty with lives, when there is a justice system in place that says: it is for equal protection under the law, equal treatment. But we both know that justice has not been historically blind. From the all-white juries who acquitted white men who were clearly guilty of lynchings and murders throughout history.
To today's iteration of some police officers and I've got to make this important distinction: every police officer is not bad. Every city official, every government official is not bad. And I'm very leery to paint all of law enforcement with a broad brush. We need our law enforcement. As a christian, Romans 13 says "we are to honor the authorities", but there is a caveat, there has to be a heart for justice. And you can't take the law into your own hands. And so if you are an officer and you're not doing right, we need other police officers to turn those people in, because the ones that are not obeying the law are giving the rest a bad name. But we're not painting a broad brush, but the ones who have taken matters into their own hands have caused so much mistrust in the black community and in communities of color.
And it's high time for us to acknowledge that there is a history. The reason why we're rioting is not because George Floyd died. We're rioting because we saw it. It's very important, because it's been going on for generations - we just didn't have cell phones and we didn't take their word. We believed the words of the ones who were in power. And so we're in a very dangerous place, pastor, but it's also a place filled with hope, that if we address the pain of the moment, if we address the need to be acknowledged as human beings, worthy of empathy, worthy of honor, worthy of process, worthy of conversation, then I think that this broken-hurting moment can become the foundation for a true revolution - the way we see one another, to extend grace to one another.
I know that there are police officers who are doing the right thing, they want to get home to their families too, and they should. And I know every white person isn't racist, they're not. Every white person isn't bad, every black person isn't bad. Every black person isn't good, every white person isn't good, but each person should be held accountable for their actions as an individual. I don't want to be painted in a broad brush, and I'm not going to paint with a broad brush. But the power of this conversation for me is that as faith leaders, as men who love God, who are christians, this conversation takes away the right to stay neutral.
The most dangerous thing that's happened in the church, particularly the white evangelical church is they've maintained neutrality. "Well, God loves everybody". We know that, but God also made clear in the Old Testament, here's how you treat your aliens and foreigners among you. If you want to go to the life of Jesus, let's talk about how he addressed the Syrophoenician woman, the Samaritan woman at the well, how he touched lepers before healed them.
I've heard Dr. Paul share on that a number of times, and it has blessed me, that Jesus always had compassion. That word compassion continued to echo in New Testament scripture: he would look over the crowd, and the Bible said he would have compassion on the multitudes, and he would heal them all, and he would gather the little children, and he would meet with people that society felt were unworthy. And now, more than ever, the Jesus of the Bible needs to become the Jesus of the streets. A Jesus that is intimately connected to the pain of those who have been disenfranchised and marginalized, and made invisible, and made to play the game that "we just want to be happy", and we'll play your sports, and we'll dance and sing, but you don't see the humanity of who we are.
The church must now understand that diversity is no longer an option. It's not about toleration of different people groups. It's about true inclusion, true conversation and integration of thoughts and ideas, and leadership that allow you to have an understanding of what's going on in the streets. If you ask me: God allowed these buildings to close when he did, because he knew that these streets would be on fire? And if these buildings had remained open, we would run to our safe caves, where we are around our familiars. And God says with the pain that's going to be echoing in the streets: I need you out there, because that's exactly where Jesus would be. He'd be under the bridges in LA where they have homeless camps. He would be in the Third Ward with George Floyd's family.
He would be with Brianna Taylor's family, whose birthday is this week and she didn't get due process. Not only was she shot, pastor, the cops who shot her left, and her boyfriend had to call 9-1-1 and ask for help to come back. Imagine the trauma of that moment - she wasn't even worth your time to stay. This is the pain. And George Floyd's death, it's just how he died, because what's sad is, we're used to seeing us get shot, but to see a knee on the neck, to watch life ever away, to watch it happen over time, to hear him cry out for his mom, but his mom had already died two years ago. But this big man, what everyone says is a teddy bear, was crying for his mom. And the man that had his knee on his neck didn't even look up. He never looked down at him and saw him as human.
The reason why this conversation matters is because you're displaying empathy and a willingness to understand someone else's pain and story. That's why this chair matters more. And I've known you for years now, but this is the most profound moment, I believe, of our relationship because I'm not just John who serves your vision - I'm John the black man who lives a life, that you may have never known. A life that even in this city there have been times when I've been afraid. In my own front yard the police stopped me. I was in my driveway and the cops pulled up and he came out with his hand on his gun, and I called my wife, I said "Aventer, come to the front door". And she thought I was joking. I said "I'm not joking. Please, turn the light on the porch and come to the front door now". She comes out. The officer says, "Ma'am, are you all right"? She says: "Of course I'm all right, that's my husband". He said, "Well, I didn't know, because he was just sitting in the driveway with the lights on, we didn't know if something was wrong".
I can't even pull up to my driveway without being a suspect in my own home. That's the fear that not just me, but many people live with. And I have to say that God has blessed me, I've been able to live in neighborhoods that are safe and good schools, but what about my brothers and sisters, who don't have the same access to resources or relationships? They don't get the benefit of the doubt. So, even though I feel it, I in no way want to say that I understand the pain of my brothers and sisters that are in the projects, my brothers and sisters that are in need of another voice to echo. So, I sit in this seat for the people that can't sit here, for the nameless, the faceless, the voiceless. From the ones who in the 1950s and 60s were marching, so I could sit here and not placate and not say what needs to be said. People died for me to be able to vote. People died for me to be able to say "Black Lives Do Matter". They matter, and they matter because God created them equal to every other life. It matters. And, so clearly I have a lot on my heart...
Joel Osteen: Yeah, it's good John, keep going.
John Gray: When I think about the church and the role of the church in healing the divide in this country, we'll have to start right here. Many of my friends who are white pastors, who have called me have said: what can I do? And I offered the same question: what would you do if your son got killed? You'd want first empathy, then you'd want activism, and you'd want mobilization. We can't just sit in the pain, we've got to do something. The first thing is to acknowledge that at the church level we've got work to do, we've got work to do. If I'm good enough to be on your worship team, if I'm good enough to be an usher, and a greeter. If my tithe money is good enough for your church, then my pain needs to be good enough for your church. And I think that it should be acknowledged.
The challenge is that there are some pastors who are afraid to step into these waters, because they see this as political, not spiritual. This is not political. And too many white evangelicals have sided with the political aspect of their ideology and not the person of Jesus, because I don't believe Jesus is a republican or democrat or independent - he is a King, it's a monarchy. A monarchy is very different than a vote. You can't vote Jesus off the throne, he's going to be on that throne. And if you reduce Jesus to political ideology, you limit the humanity of every individual. And it must be stated that we cannot demonize and vilify white christians for not knowing.
You just said at the beginning of our conversation: you're a white man who grew up with two white parents, and your dad was way ahead of the curve. I had black people at y'all church from the beginning. 60 years ago this is still Houston, and he embraced black people at a time when there were other churches where black people could not go in. While they were singing songs about Jesus, it's very important, that the Bible has been used to excuse everything from the crusades to slavery and everything in between. And so, there are some black people who look at the white evangelical side with a side eye saying: what are you going to do now? And this conversation takes away the middle ground, because if you and I can have a conversation about race, then they have to have a conversation about race.
Joel Osteen: That's so good, John. You're saying: how you can identify with the young men, black men in the projects, I mean think about me, I could some of that stuff you're telling me is for the first time too, about being afraid out in your front yard. And so, John, I wonder about one time you said because Lakewood is all races, I don't really know how that happened, but one time you said one of your messages "We need to take what's in Lakewood out to the world". How did this happen at Lakewood? How did this get so diverse and integrated? Any thoughts on that?
John Gray: Yeah, that's a great question, and I think the answer is: your heart. And I know you are very, you know, self-deprecating, but let me just take a moment to give you the honor that you deserve, and I won't look at you because you know, I'm all emotional, but your heart is so open for all people, you cast a wide net of hope and everyone needs hope. Hope doesn't have a color. Hope doesn't have a gender. Hope doesn't have a sexual orientation. People are hurting, they are wounded, they need the love of Jesus, they need to know that God has a plan for their lives. You have been consistent and excellent in making it clear, that the love of God is available to all people. And I know that there are people who want you to say all different things, but they didn't create you and they didn't call you, and you have been consistent in declaring it.
That's why on any given Sunday when these doors are open, you have probably at least 50 nations represented, multiple nations from the continent of Africa, the the Middle East, Europe. I personally know that there are people who have set up there, who were of the muslim faith, who came to faith in Jesus and said "I can't tell my family right now, but I have come to know Jesus by hearing the Word of God in this place". It starts with the heart. The reason why I'm able to serve your vision is not because I identify with where you grew up, I identify with who you are, and who you are is expressed in the heart of the man. And so, I acknowledge that my pastor is white, he grew up in a different era, he grew up with different experiences, but your heart translates.
And there are so many people that ask: how does a John Gray and a Joel Osteen work? And it works, because I know your heart, and I believe that same heart beats in me. And that's the beautiful thing: when you declare a thing, it draws organically what resonates with the people. You didn't try to be this, this is you. And if we're really going to heal, we're going to have to have honest conversation about who people actually are. And then in the areas where there is a deficit of knowledge and experience, we need to create opportunities of understanding.
Now, that's uncomfortable, because you're going to have to put yourself in my shoes. Now, I want to be in your shoes, because your shoes are in shape, you got a six-pack, but I think that it's important for people who have been given privilege, who have been given an opportunity to be a step ahead, to take a step back and say "okay, I'm not going to apologize for that". And that's important, because some people want white people to apologize for being white - I think that's wrong. I can't be mad that God made you a certain color. And everybody in this country is a part of a system. Whether you choose it or not it it's just the truth of what it is. But Levi Lusko said something that really blessed me, he said "Just because I'm on third base doesn't mean I hit a triple".
I was given opportunities that other people didn't get, and to acknowledge that is not a bad thing, it just gives me empathy for other people's challenges. I don't have access to capital, I don't have access to the same credit lines and bank loans, depending on where I go geographically, because sometimes the color of my skin hinders my ability to have access to the same resources as you. But empathy, and particularly how this church has been empathetic to multiple cultures is a beacon of how I believe God wants his church to function. That we are honoring of culture without pandering to culture, because the truth is: if there are pastors who are pandering to black people right now, black people are going to see straight through it. What we need is honest dialogue, where we are integrated into the heart of a church's vision.
When it comes to black people who go to churches that path where pastors are white, that's a part of our culture, that's easy to do, we do it all the time. What I find challenging is white people who go to a church with a black leader. Because the truth is: there's very few places where white people have to listen to a black person in an area of leadership. So, the moment they're offended they can leave, but it's just a part of the mindset and the culture of our country to be able to connect with white pastors, which means you all have a different level of responsibility to empathize with the pain of the people who connect to you, because they're not just looking for Jesus, they also need some tangible facets of hope. And I think that's the next step after we acknowledge the pain.
Joel Osteen: Yeah, that's so good, John. I told you earlier one of my friends text me, he's a well-known man, African-American man, he said "You don't have to fully understand my pain, Joel, just help, care for me through it". You know, that kind of opened my eyes too, because sometimes you think "well, you know, I don't understand all you've been through", but I think it's easy for me to care for you, it's easy for me to love you, it's easy for me to to seek understanding.
You know, John, one thing I thought of, you know, probably on one of the few things I've seen personally is: our kids went to Houston Community College for a couple years during during high school and they had to get certain books. And Victoria went down there to the the library where you get the books you had to purchase them, I guess there's a bookstore. And the place was packed with young African-American kids, maybe 100 people in this little bitty room. And Victoria walks in this, you know, white beautiful girl, and she gets in the back of the line. And they asked: what she was there for? And she said "I need to come get some books for my children". And they said "You can go to the front of the line". They said "Do you have cash? Do you have money"? Said "yeah, I got money, I'm going to buy them". They said "You can go to the front of the line, we're all waiting for financial AID".
And I thought, "man, how can they get ahead, when they're sitting there waiting in line for somebody to give them a, you know, forty dollar book". So that was when the first time I told Victoria said "Wow, how do we expect this certain people to rise higher, when they're, you know, the odds are, so"... it's hard enough to raise kids and get ahead in these days, when you see how much is against some people. You think: how can that happen? But again, John, you keep going because we're here to learn how can we do better.
You know, one thing I can say about Lakewood is we, you know, I like the diversity, I like it. I never brought you on staff because you were a black minister, I told you this before. It never even dawned on me, John, when we invited you to be on staff, I got you because you were a phenomenal minister, a brilliant person, a great friend. And then after you joined our team, articles started coming out about "Lakewood hires their first African-American associate pastor". And really we had some before, but it really never dawned on me. And I don't know if I'm naive, but I like to think that I just I don't think of it like that, because again I was taught, and I'm not perfect, but I was taught that again, every person is made in the image of God, you respect them, you treat them with honor. And I think, you know, that's what I like to think that we like to model it and try to walk it out.
I know we can do better, and I think this this incident with George, and it's not just him, it's what it represents. I feel like it's a it's a turning point, and you know it's ignited something in me about, you know, as I said: what can we do better? And then I believe all over the world, you know, as terrible as it is, you know, I'm hopeful because God takes that what's meant for harm and he knows how to bring some good out of it. But I do believe we have to be open, acknowledge the pain, seek to understand, grieve with you, realize that you've had it more difficult than us. But then again, God knew you were going to be you, and he knew I was going to be me. So, let's take what we have and let's move forward with it. We're committed as a church to stand with all races. And now we're talking about probably the black community, but you know what? We're committed to that, we're going to continue to do it, we're going to do it better hopefully.
John Gray: And what you said about pastor Victoria's experience at Houston Community College is critical, because you've got kids in line, who now have the stress of trying to learn, with the added burden of not being able to have the financial resources to do so, without probably having to take two or three jobs and student loans, that are going to add debt, so even after they get their degree, they're going to be paying for that degree before they can put a down payment on a house. You see what I'm saying? And now, that hinders my ability to how do I want to plan out my family.
I think one of the things that churches who have access to capital and resources can do, is begin partnering with a Houston Community College, partnering with historically black colleges and universities and saying: we're going to commit a certain portion of our missions budget to missions in this country, not just far away, but a part of the missions budget can go to helping impoverished people, who are trying to better their lives with education, give them scholarships, find ways to partner. That's a practical thing that we can do, and I think it's something that should be considered, because when we think of missions, we think about places that don't have access to resources and capital, where people have been disenfranchised.
Well, if that's really what missions is about, you can look down the street. And I think that churches, particularly white churches that have money in the bank, they should think... when you say: how can I help? You can help with your relationships, you know the bank president, you know the city council, you know the mayor, you know the county commissioner, you know the president of that college. Tell some of these corporations to put some money into a pool, and let's get a hundred kids, and let's pay their books off, and let's give them a stipend, so they don't have to go to work and they can just focus on their education.
If a number of churches did that in each community, you would see an immediate response and a return on investment. And when you talk about the role of this church, because Lakewood, I believe as I've said, it is a beacon, when you take proactive steps of empathy of understanding, what it does is it begins to counterbalance the history of the church as many black people have experienced it, that we were invited into the pews, but not into your hearts. I need to know that my experience matters, my pain, my process, my wounds.
You know, when you think about some of the other mitigating factors around a George Floyd moment, you have to look at Brown versus Topeka, was that 1954. Brown versus the board of education. The whole idea of separate but equal. Listen, white folk, we're gonna go over here our kids, but y'all have equal facilities and equal access. But you know, it wasn't true. The facilities were substandard, the books were outdated. And so, the supreme court struck that down. You know what happened next? Christian school started sprouting up all over the South. It was a nice way of saying, white christians were saying: I don't want my white kids going to school with these black kids, so we're going to start christian schools. That's where the proliferation of that started.
That's why I said a lot of this still has to be reconciled. If people are going to find credibility from the church, we're going to have to acknowledge where this pain came from. So, from christian schools to the silence of white pastors during the civil rights movement. Again not all, but many. Because the truth is: we were where we were, and we were not even 100 years from slavery at that point. But then you step into the 60s, the the civil rights act of 1964, the voting rights act of 1965 that outlaw discrimination. 1965 that means it's been 55 years ago, there are people that are alive right now, who were alive when there needed to be a voting rights act. It's very very important that our nation understands: we're not that far removed from systemic pain, systemic injustice.
The role of the church is to fight for the poor, fight for the the marginalized. What did Jesus says when he was baptized in Isaiah 61? The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor, to set at liberty the captives, the recovery of sight to the blind, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord". And if there's any year that has been unacceptable, it's 2020. But maybe it was a prophecy for the latter part of the year, that this can be a moment that it turns from unacceptable to acceptable. When you accept me as an equal, when you accept my pain as valid and worthy of empathy, when you accept the black experience in America has been less than good. When you accept the fact that the systems that perpetuated these injustices are still very much intact. It's one thing to acknowledge, it's another to dismantle.
And it must be the church that uses its influence, backed by the Spirit of God, to impress upon our elected officials, our civic institutions, and our private institutions, that life as we know it cannot go back to normal. This is not going back in the back. I have one fear, and my fear is that in this moment, if we don't move towards true reconciliation and healing, the next incident that happens will be the thing that truly causes national civil unrest. What we've seen has largely been peaceful, and I do need to address that I think it does George Floyd's family and his memory of dishonor, when we loot and steal. And I say "we" by people who say they're marching for justice. When you loot and you steal, you dishonor and you muddy the waters around the thing that we are fighting for.
And I want to tell you how much it meant, maybe a lot of the people who are listening right now watching don't know, but I saw you marching with George Floyd's, not only his family, but seventy thousand people. You were down there and I was standing next to you, and my wife was there, and we marched in that heat, because it mattered. And let me tell you, I heard the people from the streets, from the hood, with gold teeth and tattoos, "Hey, there go Joel. That's my man. Amen, thanks for coming down. Amen, this means the world". I heard that over and over. You need to know, that you stepping out on that street, and you didn't announce it, you didn't have cameras, you didn't ask: they saw you, they found you, because of who you are. But you didn't look for it. You said "I'm going because it's right".
This is where change occurs. When you can take your pain, and take it out of your mind, and let it rest in your heart, and let the tears flow from your eyelids, and then let it move your feet into action, to get on the street and say "I don't know what it's like to be you, but I'm willing to walk a mile in your shoes". And that's what you did. And if you can do it, then it takes the excuse of every other white pastor of privilege and notoriety and resources and say "you must now reconcile your version of Jesus with the reality of the life that we're living, and the country that we're planted in".
Joel Osteen: That's beautiful, John. You said it so beautifully, John, you've been a...
John Gray: It's been a lot of pain in this country, pastor. A lot of pain, a lot of tears. And there's so many black mothers that had to bury their sons, their only son, while singing songs to Jesus. And I saw something online, it touched me - a young boy, he was a poet. He said "I wonder if black women feel closer to Jesus or feel closer to God, because they lost their only begotten son too". And it was such a profound moment, that the pain, the collective tears and cries of black mothers, and black wives, and black children whose only connection to their father is of an image on a t-shirt with angel wings, or Soggy Teddy Bear and chalk outlines where the body laid.
And we now have an opportunity to take that pain and turn it into action. We can become more empathetic. We can actually sit down over coffee and talk and say "what is it like to be you on a day in and day out basis? Help me to understand". I didn't ask you to trade places, I ask you to identify with me, to understand. And that is the thing that I live with. I'm always on the verge of tears, I carry stress in my body. I know right now that when I walk into certain stores, I have to keep my hands out of my pocket, I have to move a certain way, because I am viewed differently. If I walk into a store, if I ask for the price like "well, that's a... let me show you this". That's happened to me many times. And I'm offended that you thought: number one that I didn't know where I was, but I'm also offended at the thought that you've already decided that that's beyond my ability to do.
And so again, there's a lot on my brain and I don't want to just keep rambling on and on, but there's so much pain, but I believe that the pain can be translated into hope. If we take this conversation, and if the people that are connected to your great platform will hear my heart, as an olive branch to say "Come on, let's sit down. Come let us reason together. Let's talk, let's let's have a moment of of honest dialogue around the reality that we did not grow up the same. Our experiences are not the same, but it doesn't have to be a death nail to real relationship. Let's build something that can turn into true brotherhood and sisterhood, true friendship". But it starts with empathy and acknowledgment. And then empathy and acknowledgment must become activism. And activism is not spiritual alone - it's economic, it is systemic, it is institutional.
So if you know some folk, you know, at certain banks that would love to partner, you know, and help some of those kids at Houston Community College or Texas State or Texas Southern or whatever college. That is the beginning. I'm seeing corporations stepping up saying "We're going to start a scholarship fund. We're going to, you know, do business incubators - That is systemic change. That gives equal opportunity". So important that people hear that, because there are people who are offended and saying "Well, my life matters". Of course your life matters, it's always matter, but in this country black lives have not always mattered at the same level of equality as white people. That's the truth.
That's not an indictment on all white people, it's an indictment on the system that has been created. The system is 400 years old, but I believe by the power of God, because there was another people group that was enslaved for 400 years and God brought him out in a moment: he brought out the children of Israel in a moment, and I believe that God can bring us out in a moment. We need the miracle power of God. We do. This is not going to be something that is legislated. You can't legislate the changing of a heart.
The reason why I connect to you is because of your heart, but you were raised by people who were determined not to allow color to become the defining calling card of humanity. Pastor John and mama Dody were determined to be different than what they saw, but that was a Holy Spirit thing. And then they passed it to you, and your brother, and your sisters, and now you've passed it on to us. But we have to have this moment, and this moment is acknowledgment, and it's uncomfortable because you have to identify with pain that didn't start with you, didn't come from you, but it has now come to you. So, if I'm cut and bleeding, and you have gauze, and you've got a band-aid - help me. And I think that's what people are looking for.
Joel Osteen: That's beautiful, John. We love you and thank you for sharing your heart, John. I'll say it again, John, this stirs us up to be committed to what can we do better. I feel like we've done something through the years by the grace of God, but you know, what we can all learn, and we feel your pain, and we're just going to continue to stand with you and all of our black brothers and sisters, and just all the different races, knowing that we're all created in the image of God, that we all have value. And you know, Don and I were talking before, it's about treating everyone with respect. It's not where you come from, what background are you, rich or poor, but that's the way I was taught. We're not perfect, but I think this has been a great conversation, John, and I appreciate you being so vulnerable. And you've been a friend of ours for years, and just done everything, you always go overboard to help us out here. and we love you and we we stand with you.
John Gray: Well, pastor, thank you. And this platform has always been a beacon of diversity. The worship team is reflective of the different cultures, that call Lakewood home. When I accepted the assignment of being the pastor of Relentless Church, that was a hard conversation, because I love you and I love this church, I love what it stands for, And you know, I feel like God launched me so that I could learn some things about leadership, but I had a great teacher in you. I want to thank you for the way that you lead, the way that you love, and the way that you listen. And maybe there was a sermon right there: "Lead, love and listen. Be the leader, acknowledge the pain, because you have to have a macro version for your church". You said "we want to be available to all people", and that's the pastor in you, but then you also said "but right now the pain of the black constituents of my church matters, and we want to acknowledge that, and then we listen".
Today was a moment to listen. We cast no judgment on any people group, I cast judgment on racism. But racism is a thing, that's not people. I don't think anyone should leave this moment feeling guilty or vilified for who they are. God made us all: the tapestry of humanity, the mosaic of the kingdom, but now what do we do - let's look for opportunities to activate our pain in tangible ways, so that black and brown people who have been disenfranchised, marginalized, and cut off from capital and opportunities for education and resources, now have that chance.
And if more white pastors stepped up to the plate, and brought their friends from their corporate boards and their entities and said "Let's sit down and figure out which colleges we can adopt around here, and let's pay for the books for each semester". You know how much change that would make. It would show that you acknowledge. And so that's something that we, I don't know where that came from, I literally, that's just something that we talked about here, so I thank you for this moment. And my prayer is that the world will take this as a seed, and God will water it, and it will become a wellspring of justice.
Joel Osteen: I love that. Beautiful, John. I want to pray, then you pray:
Lord, thank you for this opportunity. Thank you for John, Lord, and his heart, and his family, and all he's sown into Lakewood. And Lord, we lift up this nation and the world, Lord. We come to you for for wisdom, Lord, help us to know what to do. We thank you that you are bringing restoration, Lord, that you are a God of justice, and Lord that you are healing the hurts. Lord, I just thank you for peace and unity, Lord, and just for for wisdom that we will lead Lakewood, that we will lead this ministry, Lord, with with wisdom and with skillful hands, and Lord, that we will be a bigger part of the solution. Lord, show us what to do. Lord, we just pray and thank you for justice for our friends, and Lord, just the repayment, just the the goodness and mercy, Lord, showering those that have been disenfranchised. Lord, just open up new doors of opportunity and showing your favor in greater ways. Lord, I thank you that we will see us all rise higher and become who you've created us to be, that we will love one another. And Lord, we will continue to shine brightly here at Lakewood. Thank you Jesus, in Jesus name.
Joel Osteen's prayer
Lord, I thank you for this moment. I thank you for the opportunity for my heart to be heard with my pastor. I thank you for Lakewood church, for 60 years, God, they have been a beacon of inclusion, true inclusion and brotherhood. Now God, let this moment be a moment where we declare from the church, that racism cannot stand, systemic injustice cannot stand, systems of oppression must be dismantled, and that when we stand for the cause of justice, when we stand for the oppressed, when we stand for the lost, hurting, marginalized and disenfranchised, we stand in the footsteps of Jesus. And this is our goal. You have given all of us the ministry of reconciliation, so let us do the great work that is in front of us, and bless this great church, bless Lakewood, bless Relentless, and bless every church open in the name of Jesus, that we would rise up, and that in the midst of great pain you would be proud of how your churches came together to fight for a common cause. This is my prayer, in Jesus name, amen.
John Gray's prayer